Archive | October, 2009

HTC Tattoo launched in India, makes Android affordable

31 Oct

After the successful launch of the Hero, HTC has started pushing its third Android phone – the HTC Tattoo – in India. Priced at around Rs 17k (ex-Delhi), it is the most affordable Android phone around and has some decent specs to go along.

Basically, it is the Hero with a slightly smaller display (2.8 inches) and a 3.2 MP shooter instead of the Hero’s 5.0 MP. It runs the same Sense UI as the Hero, though we prefer the latters angular design that the curvy one found of the Tattoo. The specsheet on HTC’s site suggests that it runs Android OS 1.6 as against the Hero’s slightly old OS 1.5. However, we hear that HTC is planning to push out an update for the latest OS 2.0 anytime now.

If you are looking for an Android phone south of Rs 20K, we highly recommend this one.

We updated the N97 to firmware 2.0 and…

31 Oct

N97 update

Firmware updates are kinda funny. On the one side, they give us thrill as it enables us to access new features on the trusty old handset (we still haven’t finished trembling at getting the App Store on our iPhone 2Gs with the iPhone 2.0 firmware update). On the other, they forever hold the threat of mucking up all the content on our phones and even rendering it useless for a while. 

So when the cellphone bosses at Espoo announced that they had come up with a significant firmware update for their (floundering?) flagship, the N97, we were on the horns (ouch!) of a dilemma. Our adventurous side urged us to go get that bit of software that might just put the much-maligned device on the road to redemption, while our conservative side reminded us that the folks who had given us the handset for software reviews and tinkering would not really be too forgiving if the firmware bricked it. Adventure won in the end.
To start off, we first got pout our copy of Great Expectations to see if the N97 would update firmware over the air, Android style, by heading over to the Software Update on the phone. However, while it did identify the presence of a firmware upgrade – and it got the version (v20.2.019) right too- it asked us to head over to the PC and download it and then transfer it to the phone. So we revved up the Nokia Software Updater app on our PC, connected the phone and started off. Of course, we made sure we had backed up everything and even removed the sim from the phone, hoping it would not be needed. Well, that did not work – the software asked us to put the sim right back in. After about 160 MB of downloads, it was time to install the firmware on our device. We took a deep breath and clicked OK. For a while it seemed as if all our horrors of software updates were about to come true as the update would get to around 15 per cent and then insist that the device was disconnected and ask us to take out the battery and then reconnect it. However, suddenly there was light and lo and behold, our N97 had been updated to the new firmware.
But that was only part of the task done. Would the effort of updation be worth it? Well, we have been handling the upgraded N97 for about a day now and must admit to being impressed. We have not really had the time to put the new Ovi Maps or the tweaks made to the camera (frankly, we cannot see too much difference in the shooter) – but the phone has definitely improved in terms of the touch interface (kinetic scrolling works!) and battery life. Apps seem to be opening more quickly and we definitely LOVE the fact that a long press of a key on the onscreen keypad brings up secondary characters and symbols. Oh, and we have not charged the phone since we updated it – more than a day now – and it is still running. Coolness.
All of which leads us to recommend the new firmware upgrade to all ye who using the N97. It is rather reminiscent of the first major firmware upgrade of the iconic N95 that transformed it from a battery guzzling slowpoke to a slightly more brisk operator that tended to need recharging a bit more often than your run of the mill N series device. Does it make the N97 a thataphone killer? Um…well, it does make it more user-friendly. We will leave it at that. And now, we are gonna rest.

Symbian Horizon is an app store for all Symbian phones

30 Oct

Apple has the App Store, Google has the Android Market and Microsoft, the Market Place. What does Symbian have? Well, till recently, there was just the Ovi Store, which is restricted to phones from Nokia only. Not any more.

The Symbian Foundation has launched a beta version of a universal application store called Horizon for all Symbian phones. At the moment, it supports Nokia, Samsung and Sony Ericsson. Horizon is more of an aggregator of apps from different sources at one place. At the moment, one can find apps from Nokia’s Ovi Store, Handango and a few others. Samsung and Sony Ericsson have also agreed in linking their stores to Horizon.

Eventually, Horizon will also allow developers to directly submit their apps, which will be made available to all compatible Symbian smartphones.

Sony Ericsson video teases Android-based Rachael for November 3 launch

30 Oct

Sony Ericsson is launching a new phone on November 3 and it ain’t just any phone. We are talking here about the handset vendors first Android phone, which till now is known as the Rachael. How do we know? Well, the company has just Tweeted a link to a 20 second YouTube video that reveals the phone from multiple angles. Way to go guys – the kitten had long ago escaped the bag, so no harm cashing in upon the buzz? Don’t get us wrong, we ain’t complaining!

Nokia to shut down N-Gage gaming platform, focus on games for the masses

30 Oct

Nokia has decided to shut down its gaming platform N-Gage and will instead merge games with its Ovi Store. This was Nokia’s second attempt at addressing gaming on cellphones after its two dedicated gaming phones – N-Gage and N-Gage QD – failed to deliver volumes.

Unlike the iPhone, which has the largest number of high-end game titles for any handheld device, Nokia has struggled to make the N-Gage platform popular beyond the niche crowd. N-Gage games were specifically designed for a few Nokia phones that had high graphics processing power and the games were of a much better quality than those available for Java. Nokia will now focus entirely on games for the masses that will be available on its Ovi Store.

However, users with N-Gage compatible phones will be able to download N-Gage games till September 2010 though Nokia will not publish any more N-Gage games from now. The handset vendor will ship devices pre-installed with the N-Gage platform for a while (read till stocks last) but it won’t be pre-installed on newer devices.

Typically, on most application stores, games are among the top three categories of popular downloads and things don’t seem to be going good on this front for Nokia, especially a time when the iPhone is taking on dedicated gaming consoles like Sony’s PSP and Nintendos DSi.

You can read the official statement here

Google Maps with voice based navigation to be the biggest game changer after iPhone

28 Oct

This is going to be the biggest game changer in the cellphone industry after the iPhone was launched way back in 2007. Google today launched a beta version of Google Maps that provides real-time voice-based turn-by-turn navigation. The feature has been added in Android OS 2.0 and will be first available on the Motorola DROID, which was announced today.

Like all Google services, navigation on Google Maps will be free of cost and users will only have to pay for data usage. This move is going to hurt companies like Nokia, Tom Tom and others, which charge users either a subscription fee or a one-time upfront payment. Even the iPhone won’t be spared this time as it relies on third-party applications that are expensive.

Since this feature will be solely available on Android phones (at least initially) and lot of Android phones are expected to be launched over the coming weeks and months, we believe that Android will pick up substantially and has the potential to outdo Windows Mobile in a span of two years if not sooner. Even Nokia should be worried as it had envisioned Ovi to become an addition stream of revenue for them after they’ve sold their devices.

It’s advantage Google at the moment. Let’s see what Nokia and Microsoft have in store for us in 2010.

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Beware humans, the DROID's gonna rule us all…

28 Oct

Today we were reminded why one shouldn’t write off a company that pioneered cellular telephony as we know it today. After many years, Motorola’s charm worked its magic again as it dethroned HTC as Google’s preferred partner for Android devices.

Motorola today unveiled its worst-kept secret and probably the best Android phone out there in the market – the DROID. It is the first device running Android 2.0 and will be available on Verizon’s CDMA (EvDO) network in the US starting November 6 for $199 over a two-year contract.

While we haven’t yet managed to lay our mitts on the device, initial reviews have been raving and it is already been termed as Verizon’s best smartphone that can compete with THAT phone on AT&T’s network.

With a thickness of just 13.7 mm, the DROID is being claimed as the world’s thinnest phone with a slide-out QWERTY keyboard. To put it into perspective, the iPhone 3GS is 12.3 mm thick. So for about 1.4 mm extra, you get a full physical QWERTY keyboard. Then there is the massive 3.7 inch WVGA display, which is not only bigger than the iPhone’s but is also based on capacitive touch technology that makes it finger-friendly.

Since it is runs Android 2.0, you’d get Exchange support right out of the box, an improved browser that supports HTML5 and lots of other goodies that we highlighted yesterday. However, the biggest improvement in the OS was announced today – turn-by-turn voice based navigation on Google Maps. That’s right folks, no matter where you are, you will get GPS-based navigation for free (data costs apply according to your plan, of course).

Going back to the hardware specs, the DROID has a 5.0 MP camera with auto-focus, dual-LED flash and image stabilisation. Add to it digital zoom and macro mode added by Android OS 2.0. It also shoots video at 720×840 pixels albeit at 24 fps and the DROID easily becomes the best camera phone on Android.

To sweeten the deal, we are already hearing about a GSM version of DROID, which should make its way to India soon. How soon, we dunno, but we are keeping our fingers crossed.